With high technology and "want this, get this" quick mentality, many people who come to us with pain seem to have a difficult time accepting the "healing process.”
This is more so in cases that have been long lasting or due to poor posture and/or movement.
As an example, you buy new tires for your car. Shortly after you hit a pot hole and throw your car's alignment off. You don't realize it, but six months later you look at your tires and notice that they are wearing unevenly and one side of the tire has no tread left.
The side effects didn't happen immediately, but since you didn't notice it before, your awareness starts now. This took time, and due to poor mechanics of the car's suspension, the uneven wearing of the tires is the result.
How does this relate to us, and our health? This is not so much of the case in terms of conditions that are acute and self-healing over time. For example, a simple sprained ankle that will heal in 4-6 weeks, if there are no complications, or a simple stiff neck that will heal in a week or so. We are speaking about conditions that have persisted or worsened over time.
Here are a couple of examples:
Someone lifts something heavy and "pulls" (strains) their back. They are in pain, but pay very little mind to it. They bear the pain and live with it, not realizing they are favoring one side of their body. Over time, this person is subconsciously leaning to one side in order to lessen the pain. The pain eventually goes away a couple of weeks later, but the person doesn't realize they haven't stopped leaning to one side. They have assumed a posture in compensation of the pain, but now that the pain has gone, their body thinks that's the correct posture. Over time, this change in posture will start to create more imbalances in the body that may not manifest until later, maybe months or years.
So here we are, almost a year later, and now the person starts complaining of hip pain. They haven't had any trauma or injury, so they can't understand why all of sudden they feel the pain. After a few weeks, the pain becomes unbearable and they have to go to have it checked by a doctor. The examination reveals that hip has limited motion due to spasm of the hip and buttock muscles. Also, noted, is muscle spasm in the lower back muscles, in the area where they had pulled their back a year ago. This shows us the relation between the recent hip pain and the previous lower back pain. Due to the tightness that developed in the lower back, the movement was limited and restricted in the back, which the person had adapted to.
After this, the person began to further compensate for this restricted movement in the back, by over using the hip muscles. Thus, over a time period of about one year, the hip pain began. So as we can see, the problem with the hip had started much earlier, but took a year to develop enough to cause pain. Just as it took months for the car's faulty suspension to manifest by showing abnormal tire wear, the imbalanced posture, caused by the originating lower back strain, had manifested the person’s hip pain symptoms.
So how do we fix this? We must repair the cause of the problem (at the lower back), not just treat the pain (at the hip) to resolve the problem. We can't focus on one of the areas, rather treat both in order to fully resolve this condition.
The patient needs to be informed of the situation; the how's and why's of the pain. If the condition is explained in a logical and simple way, it will be easier to understand the rationale for the treatment plan. It can be confusing to understand why the back is being treated for the hip pain, so understanding the "cause and effect" of the pain will be helpful to the understanding.
True, pain is only one symptom of a condition, so it can be one of the first signs to alleviate. But, this is not correcting the problem, just one symptom. This is why, in many cases, if a person bases their treatment or therapy only on pain, they will stop their therapy when the pain goes away. Since the condition is not fully corrected at this point, it can begin to re-develop and build to the same level as it was previously. This would be when the pain recurs and displays its symptoms. That's one reason why people can have returning, cyclical pain patterns and the condition persists for months to years with intermittent pain.
When someone presents to us with recurring pain in the same region of the body (for example the shoulder, back, knee), whether it has been constant or intermittent, there has to be a triggering factor that is causing the pain. This is the main and originating cause and this must be resolved to prevent further occurrences and completely resolve this condition.
The course of therapy may be longer than the patient expected, but if they understand why it is necessary, they will be compliant with it. Understanding that certain areas need to be addressed in an orderly fashion to "unravel" years of improper movements or postures is imperative, and that one cannot progressively improve if the treatment is not performed in a systematic way.
When a patient begins therapy, something that they thought would take a couple of weeks may actually turn into a few months. Proper patient education, with full understanding, is the key to a good doctor/therapist-to-patient relationship. If one understands why they are being treated, the speed of the therapy will become secondary to proper care. The patient's patience level will increase along with compliance. For healing is not a race against time, but one of endurance.